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Category Archives: Bread

Yeast Fruit Buns – Cookery for Northern Wives


I love picking up local cookery books from places I’ve visited, the more esoteric the better. Visiting Shetland, I was keen to explore the food of the islands and to collect some recipes. I loved my exploration through eating! I had some wonderful food, particularly some excellent baking.

In Shetland I bought a facsimile edition of Cookery for Northern Wives by Margaret B Stout, a book published in 1925, “containing practical recipes for old-time and modern dishes, all suited to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.” Margaret Stout was a Shetlander who wanted to encourage young northern wives to cook simple dishes and also to record traditional Shetland recipes.

This is a recipe for Yeast Buns. They are basically fruit buns. I decided to give the recipe a go! The result was a rather soft style bun, almost like brioche. I expected it to be a bit like a hot cross bun, but it was much softer, more cake like, than a hot cross bun.

I did some tweaking to the original recipe. First, I substituted dry yeast for fresh yeast for the sponge. I also added sourdough starter for extra flavour as I always have plenty on hand from making sourdough bread. This changed the amount of flour I used in the sponge. I have included flour amounts for both using sourdough starter and without using it.

I cut down on the flour in the main mixture, as my baking sensibility suggested that 560g was a bit too much. I added more dried fruit than in the original, and substituted some candied clementine for the candied peel, as that is what I had on hand.

I converted the imperial measurements to metric, rounding up or down as necessary.

The bottom photos are of the original recipe from Margaret Stout’s book.

Ingredients

Sponge
113g strong flour
10g yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
113g sourdough starter
(or 226g strong flour all up if not using the starter)
400 mls lukewarm milk

Mixture
113g butter
450g strong flour
113g sultanas
100g raisins
113g caster sugar
60g candied peel (I used candied clementine)
2 beaten free-range eggs

Sugar and milk to glaze

For icing:
1 cup icing sugar and enough orange juice to make icing of dripping consistency.

Method

Here is the method, adapted from the rather scant instructions given by a Margaret Stout.

For the sponge, sieve the flour into a large bowl, then add the yeast and sugar and mix in the sourdough starter if using. Gradually add the lukewarm milk, stirring to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel, or my favourite, a disposable plastic shower cap. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.

Prepare the rest of the mixture. Rub the butter into the flour. Add the sultanas, raisins, caster sugar and candied peel or clementine to the butter flour mixture. Beat this mixture into the sponge, once it has risen, and mix in the beaten eggs. Mix well, for about 5 minutes.

Cover the mixture in the bowl with plastic wrap/tea towel/plastic shower cap and leave to rise again for 1 ½ hours.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C fan forced.

Form the dough into small balls, place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover the tray loosely with a tea towel and prove for 10 to 15 minutes in a warm place.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the buns are a deep brown colour.

Once out of the oven, while warm, brush the tops of the buns with a tablespoon of sugar mixed with a tablespoon of milk.

These buns are delicious eaten as is while warm! You can also eat with lots of butter and jam.

If you think the buns need zhushing, you could drizzle a little icing over the tops, made by mixing icing sugar with enough orange juice to produce a soft icing. I used blood orange juice as they are in season now in Sydney.

These buns keep well as they are enriched with milk, butter and eggs. They are really soft, and they remain soft even after a few days.

I’m so pleased I made them! It wasn’t difficult to adapt the recipe. The results were delicious.

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Shetlandic Sourdough

Eshaness Shetland

It’s August 2019 and I’m in Shetland, seeking out the unique wildlife of the islands and finding out more about its Norse heritage. And doing some sampling of the food of the islands too.

So what has this got to do with sourdough you may ask? Quite a lot actually!

I have been making sourdough for a couple of years, but have been actively practising this particular sourdough recipe throughout this year, making loaf after loaf, every other day, trying to get a loaf that ticks all the boxes. I am by no means there, but I feel happy enough to write up my latest efforts for this post.

My version is based on the recipes of James Morton, the Shetlander baker known for his bread making skills and in particular for his passion for, and scientific approach to sourdough. His latest exploits on Instagram @bakingjames are a fascinating diary of a keen bread maker!

It seems appropriate, therefore, to be blogging about sourdough while I am actually in Shetland. 

My sourdough procedure is based on James’ recipe from the book Shetland: Cooking on the Edge of the World, co-written with father Tom Morton, but also on his original sourdough recipe from his book Brilliant Bread. I’ve got my own take too, on these recipes, and what I am blogging below is as much about my experience of the pitfalls of sourdough as well as its exquisite joys.

Shetland is utterly beautiful. I am gobsmacked by its rugged coasts and verdant pastures, and its birds, otters and seals. I am also quite smitten with the sheep of Shetland – picture perfect flocks, more romantic than our more prosaic Australian sheep! 

Today I’ve been in Hillswick and in Eshaness, walking stunning cliff tops and enjoying the local food at the St Magnus Bay Hotel and writing my sourdough post.

So here’s my take on James Morton’s recipes for sourdough, blogged on Shetland. 

Note: This recipe calls for baking the bread in a cast iron pot or casserole. It’s an amazing way of cooking the bread, allowing you to cook at quite high temperatures. I also use a bread proving basket. Not quite as necessary as the cast iron pot, but a really good investment if you’re a bread maker.

Sourdough Starter 

Ingredients 

100g organic stoneground flour

100g fresh orange juice 

Method 

Mix the flour and fruit juice together in a glass jar, big enough to hold at least triple the amount of the original starter. Leave this for about  5 days, or until the mixture is bubbly and frothy but has begun to settle. Now you can feed the starter with equal parts flour and just water. For the feeding stage, I use 125g flour:125g cooled boiled water. 

Leave for 12-24 hours until the starter is bubbly and has expanded in size.  It’s now ready to be used.

Keep on feeding every day in this way. If you’re not baking bread, you will need to discard a lot of the starter, to make room for more flour and water. You should have  only about 200g of starter in the jar left before feeding. 

If you don’t want to feed your starter every day, you can put it to sleep in the fridge and feed it just once a week.

Sourdough Bread 

 

Ingredients

250g tepid water

200g sourdough starter 

400g strong white flour

10g or 1.5 teaspoons salt

Method

Pour the tepid water into a large bowl.

Add the sourdough starter and stir together with the water until the mixture is loose and just mixed. It’s so loose it’s almost like soup!

Add the strong white flour and salt on top of the water/starter mixture. Use your fingertips to mix the salt into the flour, then a wooden spoon to mix everything together into a dough that is quite rough and sloppy.

The bowl needs to be covered and left for half an hour. I use a plastic shower cap, the kind you find in hotel rooms. I collect them just for this purpose. Or you could use cling wrap or a large plastic bag. Leave somewhere in the kitchen where it’s not draughty.

Remove the cover, and with the tap running, wet one hand, (to stop your fingers sticking to the dough), fold the edges of the dough over and into the middle. The dough should start to feel stretchy. Do this for about 30 seconds.

Put the cover back on the bowl. 

You need to repeat this stretching and folding of the dough 3 more times. I make the time interval in between stretching and folding suit whatever I am doing on the day. The minimum time is 30 minutes. I often leave the dough 2-3 hours in between stretching and folding if I’m busy during the day. As James says: “Timings aren’t that important, as long as the stretching is done.”

After the last stretching session, cover the bowl and leave for 2  hours.

Sprinkle a work surface with some flour. 

Flour a proving basket. Proving baskets are great for shaping your loaf! If you don’t have a proving basket, put a tea towel into a large bowl and sprinkle liberally with flour.

Turn the dough out onto the floured surface, making sure there is enough flour on the working surface so the dough doesn’t stick.

Now here is the interesting part. That is, how to shape your bread. I have used the James Morton method very successfully, as described below. I also discovered another way on an Instagram video from @season_adam.  I suggest looking up this Instagram video as it’s well worth the look. It’s too tricky to try to describe here.

Here is James Morton’s method:

Using lightly floured hands press the dough out slightly flatter. Next you want to roll up your dough as if rolling up a Swiss roll or a Persian rug really tightly.

Turn the rolled dough 90 degrees and roll it up again.This time it will be harder – it will feel tight and try to spring back. You’ll now have piece of dough with a seam on the top and a smooth surface on the bottom. You want to keep this smooth surface on the bottom and sit the dough in your proving basket or prepared tea towel in a bowl.

The dough should be proved again in the proving basket or bowl. Put the dough in the proving basket or bowl in the fridge to rest for a few hours, or overnight if you reach this stage at night. This fridge prove is important as it allows the bread to develop flavour.

Heat the oven to 240 degrees C half an hour before you want to bake the bread.  Place the cast iron casserole pot, lid on, into the oven to heat up over the half hour.

After 30 minutes, carefully remove the pot from the oven and take off the lid.

Turn your dough out into the pot, so the smooth side is on top and the seam side is on the bottom. This can be tricky, but be bold – and careful – and turn the dough out as deftly as you can.

Score the dough with a sharp serrated knife or lame. This is a sharp razor blade attached to a handle and is really useful to have if you bake a lot of bread. Replace the lid and put the pot back in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. After this time turn the oven down to 230 degrees C. Then carefully remove the lid  from the pot and bake for another 20-25 minutes until the loaf is very brown. The loaf needs to be a really dark brown colour. Don’t be afraid to go an extra 5 minutes to get that colour.

Once cooked, remove the loaf and turn out onto a wire rack to cool. You need to wait an hour before slicing as the bread is still cooking!

Serve with lashings of butter and homemade jam. Sourdough toast is lovely with a boiled egg too!


Special note re oven temperatures! 

The temperatures given work well for me in a fan forced oven. I have read several recipes which also use similar high temperatures. And I have made this recipe countless times using these temperatures. However, you know your oven and whether the suggested temperatures would work for you.

The magic of any bread, but particularly sourdough, is seeing how much the bread rises. I am always nervous on lifting the lid after the first part of the baking to see how much it has risen. But it’s a fantastic feeling to see that beautiful risen loaf in the pot! And when you take the bread out of the oven after the final bake there is another moment of triumph when you see your brown risen sourdough loaf in all its glory. 

Sourdough bread is so worth the effort to make!

And the sheep of Shetland are pretty good too.

The Banana Chelsea

As the title implies, this is a recipe for a Chelsea style bun. But the thing that makes it different is that mashed banana is incorporated through the dough, giving the bun a real banana hit!

They look and taste great, but I got a bit worried that you can’t see any banana, so I did do some decoration with a few banana slices and some toffee. I think this was “gilding the lily”. They’re fine on their own!

Ingredients

350g strong flour
1 teaspoon salt
100g tepid water
10g dry yeast
20g sugar
50g buttermilk
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Filling
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup hazelnut praline paste (This paste is sometimes hard to source, so you could substitute Nutella)

Icing
200g icing sugar
Enough water to make a smooth paste

Method

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Put the tepid water, yeast and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook. Leave it to sit for a few minutes, to allow the yeast to start to activate.

When the mixture is frothy, add the buttermilk and the mashed bananas. Mix well using the dough hook.

Add the flour and salt mixture to the bowl and continue to mix with the dough hook on low speed the dough is smooth and starts to become elastic. Add the vegetable oil and mix until the dough becomes soft and silky.

Form the dough into a ball and place it into a clean bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film, or my favourite, a disposable plastic shower cap. I always use shower caps to rise dough, as they neatly fit over the top of the bowl! Allow to dough to rise for 60-90 minutes, until roughly doubled in size.

Towards the end of rise, get your filling ready. Melt the butter gently in a microwave on low, and have your brown sugar and praline paste/Nutella on hand.

Flour a work surface. Turn out the dough and knead gently for a few minutes until the dough is soft and pliable.

Roll out the dough into a big, long rectangle. The rectangle should be about 20cm wide. It’s hard to say how long the rectangle is, at least 50 cms, but it could be longer. I judge by the thickness of the dough, rolling out to get a decent length, but you do want dough that’s not too thin, just thick enough to encase the filling.

Spread the melted butter over the dough rectangle, then sprinkle over the brown sugar. Dot the dough with the praline paste or Nutella, as you can’t really spread the paste.

Roll up the dough along its long edge into as tight a cylinder you can get, being careful as the dough is quite hard to manage. Slice the cylinder into roughly equal pieces using a sharp knife. I usually get about 12 buns per cylinder, but the number of buns will vary depending on how large you want the finished product.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper and arrange the buns cut end down. Cover the tray with cling film or put inside a large plastic bag. I have several of these that I have rescued after I’ve had something delivered. Leave to rise for another 60-90 minutes at room temperature, until the buns are noticeable bigger, but not necessarily doubled in size.

15 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced.

Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until the buns are a deep golden brown colour. You can check after 15 minutes to make sure the buns are not browning too quickly – if so, cover the top with foil for the last part of the baking.

Remove from the oven, and cool to room temperature. Once the buns are cooled, drizzle with water icing.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with enough water until the icing is thick but of dropping consistency. Drizzle the icing over the buns using a fork or spoon.

The Banana Chelsea is now ready to eat! But if you want to prove the bun is actually a banana Chelsea, by all means top with a slice or two of banana and even a few toffee shards. I did do this, but really, the buns taste like banana, so there’s really no need for additional advertising!

Steak Sandwich: Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients

I was looking for a quick dinner involving steak this week. I have a great butcher in Balmain village, with superb free range meat, and their beef is particularly tasty. I had a beautiful piece of sirloin, so how best to cook to showcase it?

Jamie Oliver has a really simple steak sandwich recipe in 5 Ingredients Quick and Easy Food. I’ve made it a couple of times and it’s great!

I made a few tweaks, mentioned in parentheses in the recipe. I made the sandwich with sourdough bread and I charred some spring onions instead of onion, preferring the milder flavour. I prefer Dijon mustard too.

Here’s Jamie’s recipe. Highly recommended for a delicious, quick steak sandwich. Lovely with a little tomato salad.

Ingredients
250g sirloin steak, ideally 1.5cm thick
1 large onion (or 3 or 4 spring onions)
2 teaspoons American mustard (or Dijon)
4 slices of nice bread (I used sourdough)
50g provolone or fontina cheese

Method
Pull the fat off the sirloin, finely slice the fat and place it in a large cold nonstick frying pan.

Put on a medium-high heat to render as it heats up, moving it around
to coat the pan, while you peel and slice the onion/spring onion into thick rounds. Add them to the pan to char for 10 minutes, turning halfway.

Meanwhile, cut off the sinew, then place the steak between two sheets of greaseproof paper and pound with your fist until just under 1 cm thick. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then brush all over with the mustard and cut into two.

Add a good splash of red wine vinegar to the onion, toss for 1 minute over the heat, then divide between two slices of bread, leaving the pan on the heat.

Sear the steaks in the screaming hot pan for just 40 seconds on each side, then slice and lay over the cheese, cover, turn the heat off and leave to melt for just 40 seconds more.

Lay the steak on top of the onion, pop the other slices of bread on top, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and devour.

Bread and Butter Pudding Traybake

I love bread, in particular sourdough. I also love traybakes, or slices as we know them in the Antipodes. I make a lot of bread, so it’s inevitable that I will have some leftover sourdough slices. What to do with leftover bread? I freeze it of course, but you can end up with too much bread in the freezer.

So I got to thinking about bread and butter pudding which uses leftover bread. And then I thought of making a traybake based on bread and butter pudding. Using sourdough, I thought the bread would absorb the liquid well, and make a traybake that you could cut into pieces. I also cooked it long and slow, to ensure that the custard set firm enough to slice. The sourdough worked well, the slightly tougher bread giving texture and firmness to the slice.

You serve this, like any traybake, at room temperature. But you could also warm through and serve more like a traditional bread and butter pudding. Either way, it’s nice with custard and caramel sauce!

Ingredients
250g sourdough bread
200ml full fat milk
150ml cream
2 free-range eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
70g raw sugar
Zest of a lemon (optional)
300g dried fruit – any fruit will do. I used sultanas, raisins and sour cherries.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
50g butter, melted
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Method
Tear the bread into a large bowl and add the milk and cream. Mix with a spoon, and then scrunch through your fingers to completely break up the bread. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and sugar and lemon zest if using. Stir in the fruit and spices. Mix well, then set aside for at least 15 mins in order for the bread to soak up the liquid.

Heat oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Butter and line the base of a 18cm non-stick square cake tin. Stir the melted butter into the mixture, then pour into the tin. Scatter the flaked almonds over the mixture, and then top with demerara sugar.

Bake for 1 hour until set and golden. Cover with foil if the bake is browning too quickly. Cool in the tin, and when quite cold, turn out of the tin and remove the baking paper. Slice into squares. Serve at room temperature, or you could warm gently in a microwave.

They’re nice on their own or with the aforementioned custard or caramel sauce.

Oven Bannocks, Shetland Style

I’ll bake anything that involves flour. If it’s yeast based, all the better. And baking with your very own sourdough starter is the ultimate in satisfaction.

So I sometimes forget those lovely bakes that just involve self raising flour or plain flour and baking powder. They can be just as satisfying as yeast baking and are a lot quicker.

I recently acquired Shetland: Baking on the Edge of the World, by James Morton and his father Tom Morton. James is my favourite bread baker and I’ve been cooking his recipes since he first rose to prominence on The Great British Bake-off in 2012.

I was fascinated by his discussion of bannocks, both girdle cooked and oven baked. I’ve made both, but opted for the latter as they were easier to manage and produced a lighter product. I have served them up to friends who seemed to think they were scones… I kind of agree, although this might be an heretical thing to say!

Here’s James’ recipe for oven bannocks as I have made them. I’ve included the original quantities, which makes 16. I have actually made a half quantity each time I’ve produced them. This gives me at least 8 decent sized bannocks, more than enough for a morning or afternoon tea.

Ingredients

550g self-raising flour, plus extra for shaping
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon table salt
25g caster sugar
50g butter salted or unsalted (I prefer salted)
280ml buttermilk
150ml natural yoghurt
150ml full fat milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Very lightly sprinkle them with flour.

Into a large bowl put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Mix these roughly together with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles floury breadcrumbs.

Add the buttermilk, yoghurt and milk and mix together, then add to the flour using a wooden spoon, doing this quickly so as not to over mix. The mixture will be lumpy and quite wet and will need flour to handle it.

To make the bannocks, heavily flour a work surface, and scrape all the mixture out on top. Add more flour, and pat down the pile of mixture with your hands, into a rough square, about 2cm or ¾ inch thick.

Use a round cutter to cut out bannocks, or cut into rough squares with a knife, and then place the bannocks onto the prepared trays.

Bake the bannocks for about 12-15 minutes, or until light golden all over. You will need to watch them carefully, as there is a point at which they are golden and cooked, but still soft in the middle, and ready to come out of the oven.

Remove from the oven, and leave to cool a little before serving with lashings of butter or cream, and a good jam or conserve.

Brioches Filled With Cream and a Golden Syrup Topping

Brioche, rich and buttery. Not quite cake, not quite bread. Cream buns, oozing with whipped cream and jam. So why not combine the two? This was my thinking when I was baking a few weeks back.

It was ANZAC Day in Sydney, and I felt bad about not baking my usual batch of ANZAC biscuits. Keen to further extend my baking skills in enriched dough, I had the bright idea of making brioche and topping with a mixture of golden syrup, oats and coconut as a nod to the aforementioned biscuit.

Then I thought, what about filling each brioche with whipped cream like a cream bun? Even better!

And yes, it worked a treat. Cream filled brioches with a golden syrup topping. Yummy!

When you try something for the first time, particularly if it’s a tricky yeast based recipe, you need to go to an expert for guidance. Once you’ve mastered the technique, then you can do a little bit of experimentation.

I went to baking guru Paul Hollywood’s recipe for brioche and then added the topping and filling ingredients. Here’s the recipe, with my tweaks.

Ingredients

500g strong white flour
50g caster sugar
10g instant yeast
7g salt
140ml full-fat milk
6 free-range eggs, one of these eggs beaten for egg wash
250g unsalted butter, softened

250ml cream for whipping
1/2 cup golden syrup + extra for drizzling
A couple of tablespoons of rolled oats
A tablespoon of coconut shavings

Method

Put the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, milk and five eggs into a free-standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix for about 5 minutes to a smooth dough.

Add the butter to the dough and mix for a further 5 minutes in the mixer. Leaving the dough in the bowl, cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

The dough should now be stiff and easily shaped.

Grease 12 fluted brioche moulds. You may even have some mixture over, in which case you can bake as brioche rolls.

Cut the dough into 50g pieces. Roughly shape each piece of dough into a ball and put each one into the greased fluted brioche moulds. If you don’t have moulds, you could use a regular muffin pan. Or you can simply shape the dough pieces into balls and bake as rolls.

Leave the brioches in a warm place to rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200C degrees C. Brush each brioche with the egg wash and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden-brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, whip the cream and chill the whipped cream in the fridge. In a small saucepan, heat the golden syrup, rolled oats and coconut shavings until the golden syrup is runny and costs the oats and coconut.

When the brioches are quite cool, cut in half. Pipe or spoon some whipped cream onto the bottom halves, enough to ooze out the sides a little. Place the tops back on. Drizzle the golden syrup/oat/coconut mixture over the tops as much or as little as you desire.

Serve with more drizzles of golden syrup. I like to set the tops of some of the brioches at a jaunty angle, making them look a little bit like open scallop shells, or so I think!

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